Forum Reminder & Education, 19.-23rd May 2016, Conference in Lechovo, Greece

From 19 May until 23 May, Carolina Rehrmann and Prof. Martin Leiner responded to an invitation to attend the first 'Forum Memory and Education' related to the German-Greek reconciliation.
The conference was held in Lechovo (West Macedonia).




In 1944 German and Austrian soldiers had burnt the village, while in a neighboring village of Kleisura, the occupation forces killed some 280 persons, most of whom were women and children. Similar atrocities were perpetrated in many villages throughout the region, and indeed all over Greece. This is the tragic background that has led to long-term work in an effort to heal relationships between Germans and Greeks.
People such as Ehrengard Schramm began this work in the 1950s. From that early beginning, school classes, various groups from civil society, sometimes with a political or Christian background, have made it their objective to confess guilt and shame and to organize youth exchanges between Germans and Greeks.

It was impressive to see how Greeks and Germans, from several generations, were gathered together in the conference. They were interested in how best to continue to meet together, to deepen relationships, to preserve memory and to seek justice.
It is possible that with the German-Greek fund for the future and the preparation of the German-Greek Youth exchange program ('Jugendwerk'), that a new level and intensity of German-Greek reconciliation could be achieved.
Nevertheless in both countries, Germany and Greece, there are many people in government and the media who still pose obstacles to a better relationship between Germans and Greeks. For example, most Germans have no idea that the requisitioning of food by the German military in 1941 led to famine that was responsible for approximately 250,000 deaths. Nor are they aware that perhaps as many as 1,600 villages have been the sites of massacres perpetrated by German soldiers.

However, in Germany no-one responsible for the massacres has been condemned, and in many otherwise reputable historical texts the accounts of villages where these massacres took place are absent.
In Thessaloniki, after the Lechovo conference, Martin Leiner also visited our partners from CDRSEE (Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in South East Europe), who have realized many very impressive projects, including a series of educational materials, sources, and pictures for a common history of the Western Balkans from Greece to Slovenia. These books are available in all the languages of the former Yugoslavia, Albanian, Greek, Turkish and English. There is even a version in Japanese, though with fewer pictures.
There were social projects about unemployment. There is a talk show transmitted in many countries in the region on issues of democracy, active citizenship and reconciliation … and many other projects.

Objectives of the forum

Strengthening awareness of the particular history of the martyrs municipalities of Greece in Greek, German and other European public was the stated aim of the Forum Reminder & Education. They networked civil society actors of martyrs communities with each other and with other relevant actors. This network will be expanded to include partners from Germany to sustainable cooperation between the martyrs communities, inter alia, to secure the Greek Jewish community of Thessaloniki.

Nature of the conference

The Forum had a civic character. It has been designed and attended by members of the martyr communities and of civil society actors from Germany, which deal with the topics of memory, commemoration and memorial culture. The conference has been practically applied and was based on successful examples and best practices to provide further communities useful tool for their own work.

Partners and supporters of the conference

The support of this forum has been the  Cultural Association of Lechovo. This project has been supported by the mayor of the municipality Amyntaio and other partners from victims communities of Greece. The conference has been financially supported by funds from the Greek-German Future Fund.

Preliminary program


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